Faceoff: Derrick Mason
Jason Wood: You can set your watch to it. Fantasy owners, ever fearful of being the last rats on a burning ship, would rather jump off an aging veteran's bandwagon a year too early than be caught with them in the season the wheels come off. I get that, and age and injury history certainly have to play a role in whether or not to draft someone.
But this is historically an area where fantasy owners tend to overreact. 2010 isn't 1995. Back then, we didn't have readily available data a click of our mouse away. There weren't sites like Footballguys to keep you apprised of all the nuances of the game. As a result, you were far more likely to get blindsided by an aging vet falling off the cliff. But that's not the way things work anymore. We have game logs, play-by-play records, detailed analysis of a player's practices, historical projections and lots of statistical analysis about age and trends. We have the advantage of seeing the trend, and to my eyes, Derrick Mason isn't showing signs of a risky drop off.
Last year Mason had 73 receptions for 1,028 yard and 7 TDs, 17th best among fantasy WRs. It was his 3rd consecutive 1,000-yard season and his FIFTH since turning 30 years old. He INCREASED his TD totals last year over the prior four seasons, and his yards per reception (14.1) were his best since 2001. Those are not the metrics of a man being impeded by age. This season, he's in great shape, has an emerging young QB in Joe Flacco, an offensive coordinator who isn't afraid to throw the ball, and will now get covered by team's CB2 because Anquan Boldin will be covered by the top corners. Mason hasn't had that advantage since he came to Baltimore in 2005.
Some worry Boldin will eat into Mason's targets, but this is a team that will throw 525+ times this year -- does anyone really think there aren't 120-130 targets available for the team's WR2? Yet, Mason is being drafted 40th among wide receivers, implying a massive drop off. I just don't see it. In PPR leagues especially, Mason screams value as one of your backups who could easily be in your lineup more weeks than not if you play matchups right.
Andy Hicks: Derrick Mason has punched above his weight in almost each of the last 10 years. That comes to an end this season. At age 36 and with a new No.1 receiver in Anquan Boldin at the Baltimore this season, those expecting Mason to be value again in 2010 are going to be disappointed.
To illustrate how underrated Derrick Mason has been as a fantasy receiver we just have to compare his ADP to his final ranking, and in 7 of the last 10 years he has performed above it, most of the time by quite a considerable margin. This is particularly illustrated in the twilight of his career in the last 3 seasons. His ADP in each of the last 3 seasons has been 55, 39 and 37. His final ranking has been 20, 22 and 17 in each of those seasons, with his worst result being to exceed his draft slot by 17 places. This season his current ADP is 41 and one could be forgiven for thinking that once again he presents himself as tremendous value. Not so fast.
With the signing of Anquan Boldin in the off season, no one could consider Mason as the number 1 option in the passing game for Baltimore in 2010. Now, as the author of the Boldin downside faceoff a little while ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that I am down on the Raven passing game this season. This is not the case. Boldin as a borderline WR1 and Mason as a borderline WR3 is however higher than I believe they can project this season. Another new arrival, Donte Stallworth, will definitely be factoring in and last seasons No.2 Mark Clayton will be one the leagues better No.4's and will see his share of action. With a lot of the ball distributed to the Running Backs and Tight Ends, I just can't see how barring a significant increases in targets this season how Baltimore can accommodate the No.1 and 2 receivers at their current draft slots.
Another significant factor in acquiring Mason for your fantasy squad is his advancing years. For a guy who will be 37 by the time the Super Bowl is played, history is against him performing to the level of his projected draft slot. Only 9 wide receivers in the last 50 years have recorded 100 fantasy points or more at age 36 or older. If we change this to 37, only 2 guys, the immortal Jerry Rice and Hall of Famer Charlie Joiner have exceeded 100 points. I'd rather jump off the Mason bandwagon and go for a player with greater upside.